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Friday, December 27, 2013

A Great Life Released Today

Today I'm pleased to announce the official release of my short film "A Great Life". It captures some truly honest intimate moments as a couple deals with one of life's greatest moments. The people who've had a sneak peak at it have been pretty amazed at what's been captured here. Don't miss it !

Also a very HUGE thank you to Michael Denk and Kathy Beringer who starred in it and gave life to roles that were not easy to do...they are amazing.

This shoot is perhaps testament that if you have a good script, great actors, a location and a crew of 2, you can make something good in... one day ! Oh it was a 16 or 17 hr day but it was an easy one. We took our time, had breaks, planned stuff out, ate well, laughed a lot and no one killed themselves. Thats the way it should work. It was a huge help to run rehersals. I can't say how much that let myself and the actors refine and work out better dialog and flow across the scenes. The fun part is we did just improv 2 or 3 scenes thanks to this rehearsal. 

For those who want to know it was the first real shoot I did with my new C100. I'd decided pretty early on that my dslr's weren't up to what I wanted. The C100 pretty much blew me away with how much better a camera it is than what I'd been shooting with.  My lense choices where often the Rokinon Cine 35, OM 50 1.4, Kiron 24 2.0 and Tamron 70-200 2.8. The Rokinon Cine 14mm was also used for a bunch of shots like the car interiors. It was a mix of new and vintage glass.

There are also some shots from one of my 60D's in there too. I had planned on having 2 cameras but that didn't work out at the last minute. Perhaps the hardest part was color matching those 60D shots in to the C100 shots. I think I did pretty well but you can probably guess which shots where done on the 60D - they just tended to lack the sharpness and detail of the C100. I also find the 60D just doesn't have the range of color that the C100 makes even when talking about 8bit codecs.

Sound was handled by Josiah Winterhoff. Most of the interiors were boomed with a CMC-64. I did pull out a Sanken COS-11D lav on a couple of shots and 2 for the car interiors. One one exterior shot we used a Rycote S with Sanken CS3e which worked great in the wind and rain. We recorded both to camera and SD 552 mixer. I used most of the sound from the 552 as I though it was a tiny bit cleaner but camera recorded audio was also used and was perfectly good. Overall sound was really simple and clean on this shoot which is the way its supposed to work. 

Much of the lighting was done with a mix of LED lights. I used the custom ones I have and a couple of cheaper 5.6K panel lights. On several shots I had the 5.6K panel lights working outside in the rain. I just put clear plastic bags over them, tape the bag and was good. If I'd run with HMI's it would of been far more of a pain to tent them out and keep them safe. In fact in one nite shot I had one of the panel lights on maybe 1/2 power but it made the outside trees look too bright and in post I took those areas down. The amazing light sensitivity of the C100 let me work at much lower light levels than I could with other cameras or film. I think this was probably the key factor in even being able to pull this shoot off. When you aren't messing with big lights, big power draw, lots of cables and all the other things that go with old tech cameras you can really free yourself to work better. I mean with more takes, or thinking your shots through better, and even making it easier for your actors to do their thing because you can spend more time with them developing the scene.

I think one of the most important things that happened was in lighting the last scene. I started rigging up a couple of lights and didn't like the color temp mix between the lights and the outside light. I didn't like the levels I was getting. Instead I shut off all the lights and looked at the natural light that was nearly perfect. However the C100 wasn't initially happy with the light level. Instead I bumped up the ISO to 2000 and suddenly I was in the ball park. I added a dimmed LED into the background to open up an area, and there was another panel light bouncing on 1/4 power in the scene but that was it. I was using maybe 60W of total lighting ! If I'd had a lessor camera I would of been silks, 1200's, ect.. That wasn't gonna happen with a crew of 2 in the rain. 

The light I got was natural. There are times when you might think its available light, but its not. An example is the ktichen scene that looks like natural light. However the lights in the room gave me very overhead and less flattering light. Instead I bounced in 1 LED with foamcore, dimmed it to like 1/4 power and got a more natural side lit look. 

Editing was pretty straight forwards in Premiere Pro CC. I also did all the audio mixing there as well. It all just rather boringly worked without any drama. I did use ClipWrap to process the MXF files from the C100 into individual QT mov's. I also sync'd all the 552 48K 24bit WAV files to the camera shots using the automatic sync function in Prem Pro. No major or minor technical problems in any of this.

There are surprisingly a couple of VFX shots here. Some of it was just enhancing what the camera gave me, or simply combining 2 parts of the same take in the frame because of how the actors reactions worked out. I also wanted a more isolated feel for the location so there are spots where I painted out a nearby house. All pretty small stuff that just added up to a cleaner project.

Grading was done in DaVinci Resolve. I worked with the original C log shots and gave them a base grade. I passed on using a LUT because I didn't find one that gave me a usable starting point. C Log really doesn't need a lot of adjustment to look good if your shooting on the money. While editing I was tempted to not even touch most of the images as the C log has a nice flat film like appearance. However I'm glad I did go and grade this. It brought more out in the end. Most of the grading was pretty simple and straight forwards. In a few shots I shaped and changed the lighting in mostly subtle enhancing ways. There is one shot where I did somewhat relight it. It just came down to not having the time to really light it that way and I knew it was a pretty easy fix in grading where I did have time. Knowing when fix it in post is not just viable and pretty easy, but also appropriate to keep production moving along is important. Its something that comes from experience in both shooting, editing and grading.

So thats a lot of info, but feel free to ask questions, let me know what you think, and please do go ahead and share around the web !